Hermenegild Peiker, The Whipping of St. Peter

Church of St. Peter, Munich, Germany

In Acts 5:17-42 the apostles are imprisoned for preaching about Jesus but escape and go back to their preaching. When Peter and John are again apprehended many in the Sanhedrin argue that they should be put to death, but Gamaliel persuades them to flog the two and then let them go.

In the fresco a servant flogs Peter while John awaits. A normal response to the raised scourge would be to hold one's hands out defensively, but Peter is pictured with "praying hands." This and John's crossed-arms gesture reprise the gestures of humble acceptance seen in images of Mary at the Annunciation, Assumption, and Coronation. They thus reflect the point that saints declare in countless passion narratives: that martyrdom is a gift for which the martyr is humbly thankful to God.

Peter has the usual short, square beard, and he still wears the shackles from his time in prison. John is portrayed as a beardless youth. The Roman soldiers beside him are not in the narrative, which speaks only of a certainly Jewish officer, the magistratus templi.

The fresco is a copy of the original, which was painted by Johann Baptist Zimmermann in 1753-56 but destroyed in the bombings of World War II.

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Photographed at the church by Richard Stracke, shared under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.